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INDIANAPOLIS Even before the NFL made significant changes to the kickoff rule, which is wildly expected to lead to more returns, the Colts had a focus of improving their returner situation in 2024.

Brian Mason’s first year as special teams coordinator saw questionable decision making and minimal production from the return game.

When you factor in that, plus the NFL growing the likelihood for more kick returns in 2023 (the Colts had just 9 kick returns all last season), it led to the Colts making a very interesting draft pick in Round 5.

Enter the electric Anthony Gould, a 5-8 wide receiver with some impressive punt return numbers.

Gould averaged more than 16 yards per punt return in college. If the Colts could tap into a snippet of that in the NFL return game, it would be a really nice injection of life into a stagnant part of their operation.

“The return game is going to be very important,” Chris Ballard said after the Colts drafted Gould in late April. “This new kickoff return rule is going to change some things. It’s a little bit of an unknown right now but we think he’s an explosive player with the ball in his hands, he has had a lot of success in college returning punts and he’s a pretty good wideout so excited to get him.”

At Oregon State, Gould took two punt returns to the endzone as a junior, finishing that season with an 18.3 punt return average.

The senior numbers though show even more consistent production from Gould. He had just 7 punt returns, but averaged 16.1 per return, an indication of steady punt return jolts.

This is why the Colts felt Gould was worthy of such a selection, especially with the rule changes upcoming.

“I think Anthony being one of the top punt returners in college football is really exciting to get him to join our group,” Mason says. “That skillset, which is kind of like what we talked about, is something that we can use in the new kickoff model.”

With the new kickoff rule proposals shortening the distance for the kickoff coverage team to run down the field, the thought is the returner will have shorter time to make a decision compared to the old kick return rules.

For Gould to make a Colts impression, it’s going to have to have a heavy special teams focus.

But don’t tell that to Gould, who believes he can impact as a wide receiver, too.

In college, Gould caught 84 balls for 1,360 yards 6 touchdowns in his 4 seasons at Oregon State.

“He can do some things too, now,” Shane Steichen says of Gould. “Obviously, he’s got the return ability, but he can do some things at wideout as well.

“To add that speed – he’s a 4.33 guy, another speed guy. We know Anthony (Richardson) can throw it so it’s good.”

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